On Paedo Baptism and Presumption

On Paedo Baptism and presumption

In lines with the WCF and the historic reformed, here is a clearer view of what the WCF actually states:


A Catechism on Infant Inclusion in the Covenant

by C. Matthew McMahon


Question 1. Are Infants of believers included in the Covenant of Grace?


Answer: Yes, children are included in the Covenant of Grace, and the visible church.[1]

1. Genesis 17:1-14; Matthew 19:14; 1 Corinthians 7:14


Question 2. Upon what Grounds are children part of the Covenant of Grace?


Answer: By two reasons: the promises of God [2] and the command of God.[3]

2. Genesis 15:1; 17:7; Acts 2:39; Galatians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:4

3. Gen. 17:10-12; Acts 21:21; Matthew 28:19


Question 3: What is the promise of God?


Answer: That God would be a God to Abraham and his descendants after him for an everlasting covenant,[4] and that the children of believers are entitled to such a promise since it was made with Abraham and his children.[5]

4. Genesis 17:7; 17:13; 17:19; Psalm 105:9-10; Hebrews 13:20.

5. Genesis 17:7; 26:24; Isaiah 55:3; Jeremiah 32:40; Joel 2:28; Matthew 22:32; Acts 3:25; Romans 4:13


Question 4: What is the command of God?


Answer: The command of God compels all believing parents to have the sign of the covenant of God placed on their children.[6]

6. Gen. 17:23; Joshua 5:3; Luke 2:21; Acts 21:20; Matthew 3:6; Acts 16:15; 16:33; 1 Corinthians 10:2


Question 5: How are the promises of God applicable to children since they are born sinful and depraved?


Answer: The promises of God are applicable to the children of believers since Christian parents presumptively believe their children are regenerate based on the Word of God and the command of God.[7]

7. Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39; Ezekiel 36:24


Question 6: Does this presumption (that the children of believers are regenerate) negate the reality that these children are conceived in sin, or demonstrate an inconsistency with Total Depravity?


Answer: No. Children of believing parents are conceived in sin, corrupt, depraved and in need of salvation, [8] but their parents presume them to be regenerate, yet are actually regenerate by sovereign election at a time only God knows, if at all; [9] they are to be considered Christians by their parents based on the promise God has made to them, that God will in fact save them and be a God to them; [10] and this view is not inconsistent with Total Depravity since sovereign grace is the means by which God will regenerate and save a child. [11]

8. Genesis 6:5; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10-18

9. Luke 1:15; Ephesians 1:9

10. Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39; 16:33.

11. Romans 4:16; Ephesians 1:3-10; 2:8-10.


Question 7: Are infants of believing parents to be considered Christians?


Answer: Yes.



Question 8: Why are infants of believing parents to be considered Christians?


Answer: Based on the command and promise of God, they are to be distinguished from the visible world,[12] and are united with believers inthechurch,[13] being federally holy before God [14] and marked by the covenant sign of circumcision [15] (as in the case of the patriarchs and Israelites) or of baptism [16] (as in the case of the covenant realized in Christ).

12. Genesis 3:15; Ezekiel 16:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:12;

13. Ephesians 2:19; 3:15.

14. Malachi 2:15; 1 Corinthians 7:14

15. Genesis 17:10; Leviticus 12:3

16. Ezekiel 36:25; Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:39; 16:33


Question 9: Are infants of believing parents to be considered as members of the invisible church or the visible church or both?


Answer: Infants of believing parents are presumed to be in the invisible church [17] and are actually part of the visible church. [18]

17. Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39

18. Rom. 15:8; Exod. 12:48; Gen. 34:14; Acts 21:21


Question 10: Are all children of believing parents infallibly saved?


Answer: No. They are presumed saved by the parents based on the promises, but may in fact demonstrate their apostasy after the age of discretion, [19]showing themselves in need of saving faith. [20]

19. Genesis 25:34; Hebrews 10:29

20. John 1:12; 5:47; 6:29; Romans 1:17


Question 11: Is this contradictory?


Answer: No. Christian parents presume the regeneration of their children based on the precepts of the Word of God and do not have prior information concerning the decreed eternal destiny of any fellow human being, much less their own children.


Question 12: Is the account of when Abraham circumcised Ishmael inconsistent with the view that infants of believing parents should be presumed regenerate (though he knew that God told him Ishmael would be cast out)?


Answer: No. The sign is administered by way of promise and command. Though the promise would be realized in Isaac, [21] the command still rendered Abraham duty-bound to administer the sign of the covenant on Ishmael, [22] sealing the curses of the covenant upon him as a reprobate. [23]

21. Genesis 21:12

22. Genesis 17:12

23. Deuteronomy 11:26-28


Question 13: In presuming that infants of believing parents are regenerate, does this mean they have an active and actual faith whereby they do good works, understand the Word of God, and meditate on it?


Answer: Infants do not have actual faith, but habitual faith, or faith of habit; for as an acorn possesses in it all the properties of a giant oak tree, so infants possess all the properties necessary for faith as “seed faith” (a faith implanted in them by God and dormant until they reach an age in which they are able to rationally think); infants are unable to discern between their left hand and right hand, [24] not capable of actsoffaith, [25] and not capable of hearing or meditating on the Word. [26]

24. Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:16; Jonah 4:11

25. Romans 12:1-2

26. Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:16


Question 14: Are infants of believing parents part of the Kingdom of God?


Answer: Yes. Christ says the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them, [27] which demonstrates that a real “seed faith” is in them since no one is abletoenter the Kingdom of heaven without it [28].

27. Matthew 19:14

28. John 3:3, 5


Question 15: Why does God desire Christian parents to presume their infants are regenerate?


Answer: God desires that Christian parents rely on his revealed Word [29] which includes the children of believing parents in the Covenant of Grace

29. Psalm 119:105; John 17:17


Question 16: May a child of believing parents, after the age of discretion, ultimately be lost?


Answer: God may, by an eternal decree of reprobation, account them lost forever (which is different than His will of precept that Christians are to obey) such as in the case of Ishmael, Esau or others, who outwardly demonstrated their rebellion and reprobation. [30]

30. Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 26:14-16; Deuteronomy 11:13; Ezekiel 20:39; Zechariah 6:15; Romans 9:13; Hebrews 12:16; Galatians 4:24-25.


Question 17: Has God said that His will of precept concerning covenant children is equal to His will of decree concerning covenant children?


Answer: No. At no time has God said that His will of precept (the Word of God given to us in the Bible) is always the same or equal to His will of decree. [31]

31. Deuteronomy 29:29; Daniel 2:22


Question 18: If God’s will of decree is different at times than His will of precept, which shall Christians follow?


Answer: Christians are to obey God at His Word, and by His promises, and continue diligently in a constant state of considering whether they truly believe the promises of God or not, [32] which prompts them to sanctifying holiness, [33] and to diligence in teaching their children the Word of God as faithful parents. [34]

32. 2 Corinthians 13:5; John 5:38; 6:29

33. 1 Thessalonians 4:3

34. Proverbs 22:6; Deuteronomy 4:10, 6:7; Ephesians 6:4.


Question 19: Is the doctrine of the inclusion of infants in the Covenant of Grace, and therefore presuming their regeneration, new or novel, unknown to history?


Answer: No. The Early Church, the Reformers, the Confessions, English Puritanism, and Protestant Presbyterianism teach this up and through our present day. [35]


35. The following are a few selected quotes from church history:


John Calvin, “We ought, therefore, to consider, that just as in the case of Abraham, the father of the faithful, the righteousness of faith preceded circumcision, so today in the children of the faithful, the gift of adoption is prior to baptism.” (Opera Quae Supersunt Omina, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 35, Page 8.)


John Calvin, “It follows, that the children of believers are not baptized, that they may thereby then become the children of God, as if they had been before aliens to the church; but, on the contrary, they are received into the Church by this solemn sign, since they already belonged to the body of Christ by virtue of the promise.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4:15:22. cf. 4:16:24)


The French Confession, “We confess only two sacraments common to the whole Church, of which the first, baptism, is given as a pledge of our adoption; for by it we are grafted into the body of Christ, so as to be washed and cleansed by his blood, and then renewed in purity of life by his Holy Spirit.[1] We hold, also, that although we are baptized only once, yet the gain that it symbolizes to us reaches over our whole lives and to ourdeath,so that we have a lasting witness that Jesus Christ will always be our justification and sanctification.[2] Nevertheless, although it is a sacrament of faith and penitence, yet as God receives little children into the Church with their fathers, we say, upon the authority of Jesus Christ, that the children of believing parents should be baptized.”


Ulrich Zwingli, “The children of Christians are not less the children of God than their parents are, or than the children of Old Testament times were: but if they belong to God, who will refuse them baptism?” (Huldreich Zwingli’s Werke, Zweyten bandes erste Abtheilung (Zurich, 1830), Page 245.)


Martin Bucer and Wolfgang Capito, “…baptism signified regeneration; that the children of believers are baptized because it is wrong to keep them from the fellowship and company of God’s people those who should be truly considered His people.” (Lewis Schenck, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant, Page 28)


Theodore Beza, “It cannot be the case that those who have been sanctified by birth and have been separated from the children of unbelievers, do not have the seed or germ of faith.” (Confessio Chrsitanae Fidei, Book 4, Page 48)


Henrie Bullinger, “Since the young babes and infants of the faithful are in the number of reckoning of God’s people, and partakers of the promise touching the purification through Christ; it followeth of necessity, that they are as well to be baptized, as they that be of perfect age which professes the Christian faith,” (Fifty Godly and Learned Sermons (London, 1587) Page 382.


The Second Helvetic Confession, “We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that newborn infants of the faithful are to be baptized. For according to evangelical teaching, of such is the Kingdom of God, and they are in the covenant of God. Why, then, should the sign of God’s covenant not be given to them? Why should those who belong to God and are in his Church not be initiated by holy baptism?” (Chapter 20, Of Holy Baptism.)


Francis Turretin, “The orthodox occupy the middle ground between Anabaptism and the Lutherans. They deny actual faith to infants against the Lutherans and maintain a seminal or radical and habitual faith is to be ascribed to them against the Anabaptists. Here it is to be remarked before all things: that we do not speak of the infants of any parents whomsoever (even of infidels and heathen), but only of believers, or Christians and the covenanted. (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 2, Page 583.)


Peter Martyr Vermigli, “We assume that the children of believers are holy, as long as in growing up they do not demonstrate themselves to be estranged from Christ. We do not exclude them from the church, but accept them as members, with the hope that they are partakers of the divine election and have the grace and Spirit of Christ, even as they are the seed of saints. On that basis we baptize them.” (Loci Communes, 4:8:7, cf. Robert Reymond’s, A New systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Page 946.)


The Belgic Confession, “Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, who we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children. And indeed Christ shed His blood no less for the washing of the children of believers than for adult persons; and therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of that which Christ has done for them; as the Lord commanded in the law that they should be made partakers of the sacrament of Christ’s suffering and death shortly after they were born, by offering for them a lamb, which was a sacrament of Jesus Christ. Moreover, what circumcision was to the Jews, baptism is to our children. And for this reason St. Paul calls baptism the circumcision of Christ.” (Article 34)


The Heidelberg Catechism, “Q74: Are infants also to be baptized? A74: Yes, for since they, as well as their parents, belong to the covenant and people of God, and through the blood of Christ both redemption from sin and the Holy Ghost, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents, they are also by Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is appointed. (Lord’s Day 27)


The Westminster Assembly, “That it [baptism] is instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ: That it is a seal of the covenant of grace, of our ingrafting into Christ, and of our union with him, of remission of sins, regeneration, adoption, and life eternal: That the water, in baptism, representeth and signifieth both the blood of Christ, which taketh away all guilt of sin, original and actual; and the sanctifying virtue of the Spirit of Christ against the dominion of sin, and the corruption of our sinful nature: That baptizing, or sprinkling and washing with water, signifieth the cleansing from sin by the blood and for the merit of Christ, together with the mortification of sin, and rising from sin to newness of life, by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ: That the promise is made to believers and their seed; and that the seed and posterity of the faithful, born within the church, have, by their birth, interest in the covenant, and right to the seal of it, and to the outward privileges of the church, under the gospel, no less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament; the covenant of grace, for substance, being the same; and the grace of God, and the consolation of believers, more plentiful than before: That the Son of God admitted little children into his presence, embracing and blessing them, saying, For of such is the kingdom of God: That children, by baptism, are solemnly received into the bosom of the visible church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers; and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh: That they are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized.” (The Directory of Public Worship)


The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, “Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God. The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.” (Article XXVI, Of Baptism)


Zacharias Ursinus, “First, all that belong to the covenant and church of God are to be baptized. But the children of Christians, as well as adults, belong to the covenant and church of God. Therefore, they are to be bap­tized, as well as adults. Secondly, those are not to be excluded from baptism to whom the benefit of remission of sins, and of re­generation, belongs. But this benefit belongs to the infants of the church; for redemption from sin, by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult. Therefore, they ought to be baptized.” (Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, (1st American Edition, 1851, Pages 366-367.)


William Ames, “The infants of believers are not to be forbidden this sacrament. First, because, if they are partakers of any grace, it is by virtue of the covenant of grace and so both the covenant and the first seal of the covenant belong to them. Second, the covenant in which the faithful are now included is clearly the same as the covenant made with Abra­ham, Rom. 4:11; Gal. 3:7-9-and this expressly applied to infants. Third, the covenant as now administered to believers brings greater and fuller consolation than it once could, before the coming of Christ. But if it pertained only to them and not to their infants, the grace of God and their consolation would be narrower and more con­tracted after Christ’s appearing than before. Fourth, baptism sup­plants circumcision, Col. 2:11, 12; it belongs as much to the children of believers as circumcision once did. Fifth, in the very beginning of regeneration, whereof baptism is a seal, man is merely passive. There­fore, no outward action is required of a man when he is baptized or circumcised (unlike other sacraments); but only a passive receiving. Infants are, therefore, as capable of participation in this sacrament, so far as its chief benefit is concerned, as adults.” (The Marrow of Theology, Page 211.)


John Bradford, “In baptism is required God’s election, if the child be an infant, or faith, if he be of age.” (The Writings of John Bradford, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, 1979, Volume 2, Page 290)


Herman Witsius, “Here certainly appears the extraordinary love of our God, in that as soon as we are born, and just as we come from our mother, he hath commanded us to be solemnly brought from her bosom, as it were, into his own arms, that he should bestow upon us, in the very cradle, the tokens of our dignity and future kingdom;…that, in a word, he should join us to himself in the most solemn covenant from our most tender years: the remembrance of which, as it is glorious and full of consolation to us, so in like manner it tends to promote Christian virtues, and the strictest holiness, through the whole course of our lives.” (The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, (London, 1868) Volume 3, Book 4, Chapter 18, Page 1219.)


John Owen, “The end of his message and of his coming was, that those to whom he was sent might be “blessed with faithful Abraham,” or that “the blessing of Abraham,” promised in the covenant, “might come upon them,” Galatians 3:9, 14. To deny this, overthrows the whole relation between the old testament and the new, the veracity of God in his promises, and all the properties of the covenant of grace, mentioned 2 Samuel 23:5…Infants are made for and are capable of eternal glory or misery, and must fall, dying infants, into one of these estates for ever. All infants are born in a state of sin, wherein they are spiritually dead and under the curse. Unless they are regenerated or born again, they must all perish inevitably, John 3:3. Their regeneration is the grace where of baptism is a sign or token. Wherever this is, there baptism ought to be administered. It follows hence unavoidably that infants who die in their infancy have the grace of regeneration, and consequently as good a right unto baptism as believers themselves…In brief, a participation of the seal of the covenant is a spiritual blessing. This the seed of believers was once solemnly invested in by God himself This privilege he hath nowhere revoked, though he hath changed the outward sign; nor hath he granted unto our children any privilege or mercy in lieu of it now under the gospel, when all grace and privileges are enlarged to the utmost. His covenant promises concerning them, which are multiplied, were confirmed by Christ as a true messenger and minister; he gives the grace of baptism unto many of them, especially those that die in their infancy, owns children to belong unto his kingdom, esteems them disciples, appoints households to be baptized without exception. And who shall now rise up, and withhold water from them?” (Works, Volume 16, Banner of Truth Trust (Carlisle, 1988) Pages 335-337)


Samuel Rutherford, “It is clear that infants have their share of salvation, and by covenant it must be…And this promise made to Abraham belongs to them all…” (The Covenant of Life Opened, 1642(?), Pages 83, 104-105)


Richard Sibbes, “Therefore God, intending a comfortable enlargement of the covenant of grace to Abraham, extends it to his seed: “I will be the God of thy seed.” It is a great blessing for God to he the God of our seed. It is alluded to by St Peter in the New Testament, “The promise is made to you and to your children,” Acts ii. 39. But what if they have not baptism, the seal of the covenant? That doth not prejudice their salvation. God hath appointed the sacra­ments to be seals for us, not for himself. He himself keepeth his covenant, whether we have the seal or no, so long as we neglect it not. Therefore we must not think if a child die before the sacrament of baptism, that God will not keep his covenant. They have the sanctity, the holiness of the covenant. You know what David said of his child, “I shall go to it, but it shall not return to me;” and yet it died before it was circumcised. Yon know they were forty years in the wilderness, and were not circumcised. Therefore the sacrament is not of absolute necessity to salvation. So he is the God of our children from the conception and birth.” (Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 6, Banner of Truth Trust, (Carlisle 1983), Page 22)


Ezekiel Hopkins, “Certainly, since they [infants of believing parents] are in covenant with God; since they are the members of Christ, being members of His body, the Church; since they are sanctified and regenerated, so far forth as their natures are ordinarily capable of, without a miracle; we have all the reason in the world conformably to conclude, that all such die in the Lord, and are forever happy and blessed with Him.” (Works, Volume 2 page 326.)


Thomas Goodwin, “The children of godly parents are called the inheritance of the Lord, because he is the owner of them as his elect and chosen, among whom his possession and his peculiar people lie…The children of believing parents, at least their next and immediate seed, even of us Gentiles now under the Gospel, are included by God within the covenant of Grace, as well as Abraham’s or David’s seed within that covenant of theirs.” (Works, Volume 9, Page 426-427)


Thomas Manton, “If they die before they come to the use of reason, you have no cause to doubt of their salvation. God is their God. Gen. 17:7, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee;” compared with Gal. 3:14, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” And they never lived to disinherit themselves. As we judge of the slip according to the stock, till it live to bring forth fruit of its own, so here. (Manton’s Complete Works, Volume 18, Page 91)


John Brown of Haddington, “None but regenerated persons have a right to baptism before God…None but such as appear truly regenerated have a right to baptism before men…The infants of parents, one or both visible saints, have a right to baptism before the church…The children of believers are in covenant with God…Infants, such as Christ could carry in his arms, are members of the Kingdom of God. And if members, why deny them the primary seal of membership?” (Systematic Theology, Page 538.)


Alexander Whyte, “Baptism does not effect our engrafting into Christ, it only signifies and seals it.” (Commentary on the Shorter Catechism, Page 181.) [Note, there is no distinction between adults and children, or infants, in the Westminster Confession at all on this issue, except by age,andthe Directory of Public Worship makes it abundantly clear what they mean by the institution and how it should be administered..]


Robert Shaw, “…for infants of believing parents are born within the covenant, and so are Christians and visible church members; and by baptism this right of theirs is acknowledged, and they are solemnly admitted to the privileges of church membership.” (An Exposition of the Confession of Faith, 1845, Page 285.)


J. W. Alexander, “But O how we neglect that ordinance! Treating children in the Church, just as if they were out of it. Ought we not daily to say (in its spirit) to our children, “You are Christian children, you are Christ’s, you ought to think and feel and act as such! And on this plan carried out, might we not expect more early fruit of the grace than by keeping them always looking forward to a point of time at which they shall have new hearts and join the church? I am distressed with long harbored misgivings on this point.” (Forty Years’ Familiar Letters, Volume 2, Page 25.)


Lyman Atwater, “If our children are in precisely the same position as others, why baptize them?” (Children of the covenant and their part in the Lord, Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, Volume 35, No. 4 (October, 1863), Page 622)


Lewis Schenck, “The Reformed Church has always believed, on the basis of God’s immutable promise, that all children of believers dying in infancy were saved…in other words, all admission to the visible church was on the basis, not of an infallible evidence of regeneration, since no one could read the heart, but on the basis of presumption that those admitted were the true children of God.” (The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant, (Phillipsburg, 2003) Page 118.


Benjamin Warfield, “All baptism is inevitably administered on the basis not of knowledge but of presumption and if we must baptize on presumption the whole principle is yielded; and it would seem that we must baptize all whom we may fairly presume to be members of Christ’s body.” (The Polemics of Infant Baptism, The Presbyterian Quarterly (April, 1899), Page 313.


Henry Van ****, “If the baptism of infants does not signify and seal “regeneration and engrafting into Christ,” in the same sense and to the same extent as in the case of adults, we have no right to administer it to infants.” (The Church: Her Ministry and Sacraments, Page 74)


Abraham Kuyper, “That children of believers are to be considered as recipients of efficacious grace, in whom the work of efficacious grace has already begun. That when dying before having attained to years of dis­cretion, they can only be regarded as saved. Of course [he adds] Calvinists never declared that these things were necessarily so. As they never permitted themselves to pronounce official judgment on the inward state of an adult, but left the judgment to God, so they have never usurped the right to pronounce on the presence or ab­sence of spiritual life in infants. They only stated how God would have us consider such infants, and this consideration based on the divine word made it imperative to look upon their infant children as elect and saved, and to treat them accordingly.” (Abraham Kuyper, “Calvinism and Confessional Review,” The Presbyterian Quarterly, Vol. IV, No. 18 (October, 1891), Art. I, pp. 602-503; cf. 604.)


Charles Hodge, “The historic Reformed Doctrine which may be identified with that of John Calvin was as follows: Membership in the invisible church meant vital union with Christ, or regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Since the word presume meant to admit a thing to be, or to receive a thing as true, before it could be known as such from its phenomena or manifestations, the presumption that an infant was a member of the invisible church meant that it was believed to be engrafted into Christ and regenerated before it gave any ordinary evidences of the fact.” (The Church Membership of Infants, Page 375.)


Lewis Berkhof and the Conclusions of Utrecht, “It may be well to quote in this connection the first half of the fourth point of the Conclusions of Utrecht, which were adopted by our Church in 1908. We translate this as follows: “And, finally, as far as the fourth point, that of presumptive regeneration, is concerned. Synod declares that, according to the confession of our Churches, the seed of the covenant must, in virtue of the promise of God, be presumed to be regenerated and sanctified in Christ, until, as they grow up, the contrary appears from their life or doctrine; that it is, however, less correct to say that baptism is administered to the children of believers on the ground of their presumptive regeneration, since the ground of baptism is the command and the promise of God; and that further the judgment of charity, with which the Church presumes the seed of the covenant to be regenerated, by no means intends to say that therefore each child is really regenerated, since the Word of God teaches that they are not all Israel that are of Israel, and it is said of Isaac: in him shall thy seed be called (Rom. 9:6,7), so that in preaching it is’ always necessary to insist on serious self-examination, since only those who shall have believed and have been baptized will be saved.” (Systematic Theology, Page 640)


A. A. Hodge, “But baptism does not ordinarily confer grace in the first instance, but presupposes it.” (Outlines of Theology, Page 629.)


John Murray, “Baptized infants are to be received as the children of God and treated accordingly.” (Christian Baptism, Page 59.)


Robert Booth, “If the children of believers are embraced by the promises of the covenant, as certainly they are, then they must also be entitled to receive the initial sign of the covenant, which is baptism.” (Children of the Promise, P&R Publishing, Page 29)


Robert Reymond, “I think I have shown that infants of believing parents are to be viewed as members of and under the governance and protection of Christ’s church and should be treated as such…Accordingly, all present at any and every infant baptism are admonished to “look back to their baptism,” to repent of their sins against the covenant, and to “improve and make right use of their baptism…the Directory [of Public Worship] envisions, as Jones rightly states, “a dynamic, life-long relationship between the infants saving faith and Christian walk, on the one hand, and his baptism on the other.” (A New systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Pages 948-49)


In the neglect of understanding the doctrine of “presumptive regeneration,” Charles Hodge said, “we have long felt and often expressed the conviction that this is one of the most serious evils in the present state of our churches.” (Bushnell’s discourses on Christian Nurture, Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review (1847), 19, Pages 52-521.)


Infant faith: Theodore Beza, “It cannot be the case that those who have been sanctified by birth and have been separated from the children of unbelievers, do not have the seed or germ of faith.” (Confessio Chrsitanae Fidei, Book 4, Page 48


Francis Turretin, “The orthodox occupy the middle ground between Anabaptism and the Lutherans. They deny actual faith to infants against the Lutherans and maintain a seminal or radical and habitual faith is to be ascribed to them against the Anabaptists. Here it is to be remarked before all things: that we do not speak of the infants of any parents whomsoever (even of infidels and heathen), but only of believers, or Christians and the covenanted. (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 2, Page 583.)


Italian Reformer Dr. Jerome Zanchius (Professor of Old Testament at Strassburg) “The precondition of receiving baptism, is that the baptizees have been gifted with the Spirit of faith….” Jerome Zanchius: Theological Works on External Worship IV c. 440. Cited in Kramer’s op. cit. pp. 277f.


Caspar vander Heyden “Seed rests for a time in the earth, and takes root before one sees from its fruit that it has germinated…. The root of understanding and of reason has been poured into all children, as soon as they receive life…. God has planted a seed and a root of regeneration in the children of the covenant…. In time, the fruits of the Spirit germinate from it. For he who has been baptized with Christ in His death, also grows from Him, like a tender shoot on a vine….Caspar vander Heyden, Short and Clear Proofs of Holy Baptism, (Moderator of the great Dutch Reformed Synods of Emden in 1571 and Dordrecht in 1574)



“We do, with the Scripture, pre-require faith and repentance in all that are to be baptized, at least according to the judgment of charity…. And that — also in infants that are within the covenant, in whom…we affirm that there is the seed and Spirit of faith and repentance.” Polyander and Others: Synopsis of Purer Theology, 1581, Disp. 44c & 47 v. 9. Cited in H. Heppe’s Reformed Dogmatics, Baker, 1950 rep., p. 609.


Francis Junius

Junius stated, “faith in its first action…is required…. For it is inseparable from the person covenanted or to be baptized…. It is an error to maintain absolutely that children cannot believe. For they have the beginning of possessing faith, because they possess the Spirit of faith (Spiritum fidei)….” Francis Junius’ Theological Theses on Paedobaptism, page 139.


Lucas Trelcatius Senior (1587) (Professor of Reformed Theology at Leyden) “infants have the seed of faith” — ‘fidem habent infantes in sementi.’…”the child of believing parents is sanctified, although not producing the fruits of conversion.” Junius: op. cit. II c. 287, and his Nature and Grace, pp. 83ff (as cited in Warfield’s Two Stud. p. 203). Cf. too his On Paedobaptism 7 & 26.


William Bucanus (1609)

“It is not to be denied that the seed even of faith is poured into elect infants.”


R. Puppius’s Proof of Infant Baptism (1611).

As Calvinists, “our first position against the Lutherans who teach that baptism produces an active faith, is that tiny little children do not have an active faith….”Our second position, against the Anabaptists, is that the tiny little children are implanted with a seed of faith from which the later act of faith is born.” In actual fact, however, “infants of believers have some seed of faith. At a more mature age, it goes forth to act. It accedes outwardly by human initiation, but inwardly by the Holy Spirit — with a greater effect.”


Andre Rivetus (French Reformed theologian, 1581) Professor at Leyden in 1620. Covenant children have “the beginnings of possessing…the seed of faith…. For as the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them, so too does the Spirit of faith (Matthew 19:14)….

A. Rivetus: Disputes 13, para. 13, p. 306; Synopsis of Purer Theology, III p. 305a, in Summa cont. tract.


Dr. William Ames

“Regeneration is a part of the promises, and applies to the children of the believers in a special way…. People are baptized because they are regarded as children of God, and not so that they should begin to become sons. Otherwise, there would be no reason not to baptize the children of unbelievers as well as children of believers.”

William Ames: Bellarmine Unnerved, II:1 p. 337.


Dr. Voetius (Professor of Theology, Utrecht)

“Covenant Infants, “are entitled to baptism: not because they are ‘regarded’ as members of the covenant, but because as a rule they actually already ‘possess’ the first grace. And for this reason, and this reason alone, it (the Formula) reads ‘that our children…have been sanctified in Christ, and therefore ought to be baptized.'”


“From the seed (e semine)…, the actual dispositions and habits are sustained by the ingrafted operation of the Holy Spirit in His Own time…. Just like a seed, the abilities and possession of faith make their appearances by fresh acts of the Holy Spirit in their own time.” All born in the covenant, who die before coming to an age of discretion, are believed to partake of heavenly salvation

Voetius, Dutch Reformed Baptismal Formula of 1581, 238), as cited in A. Kuyper Sr.’s The Work of the Holy Spirit, ET, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1941, p. 300. 239) G. Voetius: Theological Disputations (Biblical Preface IV pp. 254f). Cited in Kuyper’s E Voto III pp. 57f. 240) Ib. II p. 417.


Dr. Richard Sibbes

“Infants that die in their infancy…are within the covenant…. They have the seed of believing, the Spirit of God, in them…. If when they come to years, they answer not the covenant of grace and the answer of a good conscience…, all is frustrate….we leave infants to the mercy of God.” Richard Sibbes: Works, Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1983 ed., VI pp. 22f, & VII pp. 486f.


Dr. Stephen Marshall (Westminster Divine)

“Ever since God gathered a…select number out of the world to be His kingdom…, He would have the infants of all who are taken into covenant with Him to be accounted His — to belong to Him…and not to the devils…. “Being only passive in them all…, of this first grace is the sacrament of baptism properly a seal…. Who ever will deny that infants are capable of these things, as well as grown men – must deny that any infants dying in their infancy are saved by Christ.”

Stephen Marshall: A Sermon on the Baptizing of Infants, Coates, Bowtell, London, 1644, pp. 14, 25f, 32, 26f, 39, 41f, 45f & 51f.


Rev. Samuel Rutherford

“Who they are, who are to be baptized — it is presumed they give some professed consent to the call…. What ground is there to exclude sucking children? For…there is no Name under heaven by which men may be saved, but by the Name of Jesus….”Since Christ prayed for infants and blessed them — which is a praying for them — He must own them as ‘blessed’ in Christ in Whom all the nations of the earth are blessed…. It is false that the promise is made only to the aged… It is made to their children…. For the way of their believing — we leave it to the Lord.”

Samuel Rutherford, The Covenant of Life Opened, Anderson, Edinburgh, 1655, I, chs. 13-14, pp. 72-91f; cf. too his Triumphof Faith (in his Sermons VIII).315) Id., cited in Coleborn’s op. cit. pp. 21f.


Dr. Thomas Manton

“Of those children, dying in infancy, I assert that they have…the seed of faith…in the covenant…. It must be so…. Socinians…count the faith of infants a thing so impossible, that they say it is a greater dotage than the dream of a man in a fever….So those expressions of trusting God from the mother’s womb. David speaks it of his own person, as a type of Christ. Psalm 22:9, ‘Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts’…. Job saith, chapter 31:18, ‘from my youth, he was brought up with me as with a father; and I have guided her, from my mother’s womb’ — meaning, he had a…disposition of pity put into him at his nativity. So also — why may not a principle of faith be put into us in the womb, if God will work it?” “What is the faith which children have?… They have the seed of faith or some principle of grace conveyed into their souls by the hidden operation of the Spirit of God, which gives them an interest in Christ and so a right to His merit for their salvation….” Thomas Manton: Complete Works, Maranatha, Worthington Pa, rep. ed., n.d. (ca. 1975), XIV pp. 81-89 & 205.


Dutch Calvinist Cornelius Poudroyen

Believers’ children “have the Holy Spirit and the redemption from sin — just as the adults do.” “First Corinthians 7:14 — ‘Otherwise your children would be unclean; but now, they are holy.'” “…one cannot be holy, without the Holy Spirit…. Children have faith.”


“The root and seed of faith, from which the Holy Spirit ignites and inflames their spiritual zeal when they increase in years…. They have the Spirit of Christ…. Wherever the Spirit of Christ is, there too is faith — whether an active

faith, as in adults; or whether the root and origin of faith, as in small children.”

Wendelin of Heidelberg (1656, German Reformed theologian)

Christian System of Theology.

Collation of Christian Doctrine from the Calvinists and the Lutherans


“The ‘possessed faith’ which we attribute to infants, we truly call — either ‘the root’ or ‘the seed’ of faith.”

M.F. Wendelin: Christian System of Theology, Cassel, 1656. Cited in Kuyper’s On the Sacraments p. 142 (in his Dog. Dict. IV). Also Wendelin’s Collation of Christian Doctrine from the Calvinists and the Lutherans, Cassel, 1660, p. 352. See in Heppe’s op. cit. pp. 624 & 714.


Dr. Herman Witsius

“There can hardly be any doubt that the statement regarding the regeneration of the children before baptism, according to the judgment of love, is the accepted view of the Dutch Church. In her Baptismal Formula, this question is put to parents who offer their children in baptism: ‘Do you acknowledge that they are sanctified in Christ, and should be baptized as members of His congregation?’ “Now this strengthens the views of those who place the initial regeneration of elect covenant children before baptism. So, I acknowledge I submit to this.”


Dr. Francis Turretin

Covenant “children are just as much to be baptized as adults…the faith of covenant infants…consists of an initial action in them.” That infant faith is “in root, not in fruit.” It is characterized “by an internal action of the Spirit, not by an external demonstration in works.”

Francis Turretin: Theological Elencthics p. 427.


Dr. Peter á Mastricht (Professor of Theology at Utrecht)

Children of the covenant should be baptized “because they partake of the benefits of the covenant of grace, of regeneration, and of the forgiveness of sin…. We are ordered in Holy Scripture to baptize as many as have received the Holy Spirit…. According to that Holy Scripture – Luke 1:15 & Jeremiah 1:5 — tiny children receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter Van Mastricht: Theoretical-Practical Theology, Amsterdam, 1725, III p. 617. Cited in Kuyper’s E Voto III p. 58.

Here is a relevant thread on Puritanboard:…6513#pid249759